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Joseph Smith–John Jenckes–Cushing House

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Pre-1675–1676, 1713, c. 1750, mid-19th century. 109 Smithfield Rd.

This house evolved by a complex but interesting development. It began as a one-and-one-half-story structure with one room at ground level and another under the roof. An exposed masonry chimney on its north end made it a “stone-ender.” Barely completed, it was destroyed during King Philip's War (1675–1676). Joseph Smith built a new house on the old foundation and the stub of its ruined chimney (hence the change in the exposed chimney at the north end of the house from exposed masonry up to the top of the ground floor to brick above). The new house, raised to two and onehalf stories, with a long saltbox slope to the rear, extended in four irregularly and widely spaced twelve-over-twelve windows at the second-floor level through what was then an entrance at the end of the elevation.

Around 1750, John Jenckes, the next occupant, lengthened the house to the south by another two bays (making six in all), thereby bringing a rough symmetry to the front. The stretched-out saltbox profile of the new side elevation shows a fascinating play between symmetrical and asymmetrical configurations within the pattern of openings spread over it. Finally, around 1865, idiosyncratic porches were added to the front door and at the north end of the house. Their pierlike supports suggest pilasters with pierced fluting, a charming example of provincial playfulness with current Italianate form. At this time, too, the first-story windows (and some in the back) were enlarged with six-over-six sash (those in the front elevations later reconverted to twelve-over-twelve in a twentieth-century effort to relate their scale to the old windows above). As a result the house now has three different window treatments: the oldest twelve-over-twelve sash projecting in boxed frames beyond the plane of the clapboarding; then the six-over-six interlopers of 1865 inset into wall; finally, their partial twentieth-century reinstallation to the twelve-over-twelve “correctness” of the original. So the house reveals successive efforts to give more formality and dignity to an older fabric deemed lacking in these qualities. The result is a “picturesqueness” which enlivens the formulas from the past and records the modification of generations all the way back to the period of earliest settlement.

Diagonally across the way, at 128 Smithfield Road, the Captain Stephen Olney House (1802), with a five-bay, one-and-one-half-story format, offers the traveler a less complicated bonus.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Joseph Smith–John Jenckes–Cushing House", [North Providence, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 162-162.

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